Music to write to
A few months ago, I wrote a guest post for We Love This Book, as part of their Music to Read by series (which you can read here.) At the time of writing that post, I kept thinking of music I wrote to, rather than music I read to, because, as a rule, I prefer to read in silence. When I write though, I switch between silence and music. Having the tv on when I write is a definite no-no; I find it too distracting and the cocophany of sounds, movement and pictures crash into my head, taking me away from the writer’s world.
I’ve always loved music – my parents were kind of rocky hippies. I was brought up on Roxy Music, David Bowie, 10cc, The Who, Genesis, Supertramp… I could go on, the list is endless. There was always music playing. I’d sit for hours with LP sheets, learning the words to all the songs and would sit cross legged on the floor in my own world, singing my head off! So the relationship between music and words, and the ability it has to reflect and absorb mood and atmosphere, is one that has always been with me.
What I’ve recently noticed is that I tend to choose silence when working on children’s books, music when working on my adult novel. It’s almost as if the world of creating children’s stories is developed in a different part of my mind, one where I need to immerse myself in memory and idea, and the sense of what being a child is all about. In order to encapsulate the ‘child’s voice’, I need to hear the child speak, imagine his or her reactions. ‘Grown up’ music would detract from this.
The opposite is the case with my current work in progress, a contemporary adult novel, co-written with another writer, and set in the present. I’m resisting saying too much about it at the moment, but what I will say is that it’s quite edgy. It’s emotive, diverse, and, those who have had a sneak preview of the first couple of chapters say it’s ‘mesmerising’. So, it lends itself to quite a wide range of music. In fact, I often find myself hearing a track now and thinking ‘Oh my God, that is so…..’ and mentally place the song with a particular scene or chapter. The book is a film in both mine and my co-writer’s heads. In fact, many of the scenes are set at places we have visited, so the whole thing really feels like a living, breathing thing.
In fact, I often find that if I can’t get into a scene, am fumbling a bit or in need of inspiration, just listening to something – anything – can trigger a mood or idea and send things spinning again.
So, I thought I’d give you a sneak preview into my currrent YouTube playlist, which is as follows:
Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
Gotye – Somebody that I used to know
Gotye – The only thing I know
The Divine Comedy – Our Mutual Friend
Blancmange – The Day Before You Came
H2O – I Dream to Sleep
Linkin Park – Rolling in the Deep
Underworld – Born Slippy
Linkin Park – Numb
Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence
Gary Jules – Mad World
Johnny Cash – Hurt
It’s quite a diverse list already, and, as we are almost half way through the novel now
(yes, really!!!), this list is set to grow! Eventually, I want to have tracks for each chapter, photos and images too. We have already built up some of these. I have a journal and one or two other wee things that follow its progress. The other bizarre thing about the tracks is that sometimes, at a particular point in writing, the words of the song almost appear as words on the page. The appropriateness of them is such that I have found myself weaving two or three words from the lyrics into the text at that exact moment. It’s quite a wonderful thing actually, and because my sensory memory is so strong, once those connections are made, the lyrics, the tune, the visual image of the moment in the story, and my own words, all become one and trigger each other off. It is a very holistic process. I am currently listening to Gotye, The Only Thing I know, from the playlist, as I write this post, and can literally see the scene from the book. It’s a very very powerful one. One of the most powerful in the first third of the novel. The setting was inspired by a place we visited, so the experience becomes even more real.
The next half of the novel beckons, and excites me as much as the first half. I can’t wait to find more tracks to add to it!
Do you use music to write by? And do you find it enhances the mood of your writing and inspires new ideas?